Jean-Pierre Rampal is one of the most influential musicians of the second half of the twentieth century, not only for his virtuosity but also because he made the flute popular all over the world and gave it new appeal as a solo instrument.
In 1934, Jean-Pierre Rampal began learning the flute from his father, Joseph Rampal, a flute teacher at the Marseille conservatoire, who didn't want him to have professional music lessons in case it distracted him from his studies.
As a third-year medical student, he took advantage of a stay in Paris in 1943 to attempt the conservatoire entrance exam. The following year, he passed the flute exam with a distinction after studying with Gaston Crunelle. In 1944, Jean-Pierre Rampal also made an illicit radio broadcast of Arnold Schoenberg's Wind Quintet.
In 1945, he founded the French Wind Quintet in an effort to bring the flute repertoire back into the spotlight. He worked on the Baroque period first: the beginning of his career coincided with the rediscovery of Baroque flute music. These fresh interpretations were popular with a broad audience and he went on to explore the Classical and Romantic repertoires in the same manner, giving the flute repertoire an ingenious continuity and bringing variety to concert programmes and recordings.
As solo flute with the Orchestre de la compagnie thermale de Vichy (1946-1950), he began doing tours abroad in 1947. The introduction of the long-playing gramophone record in the 1950s also marked the beginning of an outstanding recording career.
He joined the Paris Opera Orchestra as second solo flute in 1955 (where he remained until 1962), did his first tour in the United States in 1958 and became a teacher at the Paris conservatoire in 1969.
He was a virtuoso flautist and joined forces with a variety of musicians to make flute music in general better known to audiences. He formed a renowned tandem with pianist Robert Veyron-Lacroix and his flute and harp duo with Lily Laskine, his trio with Isaac Stern and Mstislav Rostropovich, and his duo with guitarist Alexandre Lagoya were a proven success. Many works were written for him and he also commissioned works from numerous composers. In the 1970s, Jean-Pierre Rampal extended his repertoire to include more popular fields with Claude Bolling and Ravi Shankar.
He was a generous and refined person who did not seek perfection at all costs, but played simply and with feeling.
Six landmark dates in the life of Jean-Pierre Rampal:
1945: Played the Flute Concerto by Jacques Ibert on radio with the Orchestre National de France conducted by Henri Tomasi.
1957: Premiered the Flute Sonata by Francis Poulenc at the Strasbourg Festival with the composer at the piano.
1969: Succeeded Gaston Crunelle as flute teacher at the Paris conservatoire, where he remained until 1981.
1976: Was awarded the Grand Prix by the Académie Charles-Cros for his lifetime recording career.
1980: The City of Paris held the inaugural Jean-Pierre Rampal International Flute Competition.
1992: dedicatee of the Flute Concerto by Krzysztof Penderecki, the last work written for him.
Biography compiled from Radio France documentation